Becoming the Mentor

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I’ve been really interested in how space effects learning. I have for a while, and between the coVenture and the new high school building there have been lots of moments for exploring that world lately.

I love how my teachers are ok with me not being at class so that I can participate in opportunities that arise for me.

Today rather than being in English class, I was giving a tour with my best friend Marz to the Wonder by Design team that is currently doing some ethnography for the new high school building.

What really got me excited was that we were specifically told, “We don’t want the admins tour. We want to know the secrets to the hallways; the details about what actually happens in this space.” (That is definitely not verbatim, but it was something to that extent.)  It really sparked my imagination for some reason because I knew I would get to tell a story not just some facts about the space and what its purpose it.

It’s funny though, because to me this is what a prospective student wants to know as well; they want to know about what their life at a school would be like and often times, the best way to explain is to tell your own story.

I had a lot of fun giving this tour because I got to talk about my experiences in different spaces and share about things that I wish were designed differently.

Just to give some examples:

I think there is hardly any room in the cafeteria for freshman and sophomores to be in there together, and I wish there was more space.

I wish there was a makers space on campus so that anyone could have access to tools, and wood, and cardboard, and recycled goods, and anything else you may want to craft with, plus the room to actually craft in without having to then store everything back up again right after.

I wish our recording studio was bigger and had the ability to be used more by everyone; most people don’t even know it exists because it is currently a closet within a closet that holds the band instruments which is in the band room which is in the back of the bottom floor behind the cafeteria.

I wish drama had a real set room or at least better assess to an art room without having to go up and down stairs anytime we need to make some prop or set piece.

I wish we had a student centered area/common room that was just meant as a relaxed place to kind of hang in those few moments of free time.

I wish we had class rooms that were more flexible, comfortable, and useable (working with the space not just within it). Which would mean first and for most getting rid of those awful desks that have chairs that connect at the legs and the seats that are too far away from the desk. We fight over who has to get stuck with one of those desks in some of the classes.

I wish a lot of thing, and I can’t wait to see what ideas arrive in the future.

What I’ve also really been enjoying is actually my non official connection to an iProject group. I knew that there was a group that wanted to redesign classroom spaces, so I had talked to them about the work ID was doing, and even hypothesized about if there was some way for them to help us in our coVenture redesigning the ID Studio. I don’t know how far that idea will actually go because it hasn’t been developed much, but I’ve still been talking with the group since this idea.

They’ve come to me a few times now before sending an email where they will ask for my advice on what they are going to say and how to word it best for their audience. I’ve also shared with them when I have new conversations with people about the new high school. Tomorrow they are finally going to be meeting with some of members of the Wonder team for the first time, and they talked to me again about what suggestions I would have for them to talk about with the team.

During this conversation I really noticed some of the skills that I’ve learned and enhanced through ID becoming prominent.

I advised them on how to ask a more open ended question like, “From your experience working with other schools, what are some examples of similarities and differences between classrooms that you have found to be essential to learning?,” rather than a question like, “How do we incorporate technology into a classroom?” Who knows, maybe technology isn’t the most important thing, but in a story they are bound to tell you many things that may be important that you didn’t think about.

I also talked about the observation process. Something I think many students miss out on is the ability to stop and observe before trying to create a product. The Wonder team is deliberately taking time to observe the school and what kinds of activities take place in different spaces  for students and teachers. They are also taking time to talk to students and teachers because they want to keep their user in mind at all times. I had advised the group to ask about how they conduct their observation process to learn tips on how they should potentially proceed in their work.

The last big thing I gave advice on was the team aspect of it. Just from watching the Wonders team myself, I have noticed some of the different roles they have all played. I’m sure that they have fairly distinct roles that help them get work done. From my work in ID, I’ve really become more aware of how helpful it is to have defined roles in a team because it makes everyone feel like their skills are being noticed and allows them to contribute more in areas where they can. I advised the iProject group to ask about what roles the members of the Wonder team have so that they can try to get an outline for what types of roles would be helpful for their project.

Questioning, observing, and team building. These are 3 skills that we deliberately have been working on in ID, and today I was really noticing how much I’ve learned. Today I was the mentor, and it felt pretty cool.

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